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Zanu PF support base shaken

By Nelson Chenga

NINE months after its elective congress and three months away from its annual conference, ZANU-PF has become so disjointed that its grassroots support is now divided along factional lines, the Financial Gazette has established.

Joice Mujuru and Robert Mugabe
Joice Mujuru and Robert Mugabe

A restructuring, occasioned by the shock dismissals and suspensions of more than 150 key party functionaries alleged to be sympathetic to ousted former vice president Joice Mujuru, is in shambles as the party’s supporters still remain clueless over the direction the party is taking.

While the dismissals and suspensions weakened the ruling party structurally, internal factional divisions have further destabilised the revolutionary party, making it difficult to re-establish control of the grassroots.

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And with the ruling party eyeing another election victory in 2018, mobilising its shambolic grassroots support base is proving a daunting task after an average of 15 influential party members in each province were either suspended or fired from the party in the run up to, and after, the party’s December 2014 congress.

Reports coming from across the country indicate that ZANU-PF is in such a state of flux that even grassroots party members fear the purge undertaken at the high levels could affect them.

They are reportedly hesitant to attend any party meetings unless these have members of the Presidium present for fear they may associate with wrong party functionaries.

ZANU-PF has been forced to postpone restructuring and verification exercises in Mashonaland West on three occasions owing to poor turnout at scheduled meetings.

Teams covering Hurungwe and Kariba districts are yet to complete the exercise in its fourth week running. Three districts in Karoi town failed to garner enough members within the party’s voters’ roll, which appears to be packed with ghost members.

The party said although the Mashonaland West provincial executive kicked off the exercise in Kariba district, “a mild pass” was given to rural communities under chiefs Musampakaruma, Negande, Nebiri and Mola.

“In Kariba rural, only six out of 17 political districts were covered forcing the leadership to abandon the remainder due to poor turnout for the verification exercise. They are not forthcoming to attend and they did not finish their business in Kariba town,” said a Central Committee member speaking on condition that he remained anonymous.

The provincial executive faced hurdles in Hurungwe district which has five constituencies comprising Hurungwe Central, East, West, North and Magunje.

“The team seems to have had an easy task in Hurungwe East constituency led by Sarah Mahoka where everything was in place,” said one member from the party’s Women’s League.

Mahoka, whose constituency is within resettlement farms, appears to have taken advantage of new farmers in the area who are under constant pressure to attend all ZANU-PF meetings to avoid being labelled “sell-outs”.

Three weeks ago Mahoka abandoned a verification exercise of Kubatana district in Karoi town covering wards 1, 2 and 3 after failing to garner a quorum of 120 members.

Karoi falls under Hurungwe Central constituency, whose Member of Parliament is Godfrey Beremauro. This situation also affected Tongogara covering wards 4, 5 and 6 as well as Chitepo covering wards 7 to 10.

“Unfortunately, we do not have enough members from the youth, women and main wings to continue verification here. We have to postpone this meeting to yet another date but it’s disappointing as it will take longer than planned,” Mahoka told the gathering at Chikangwe recently.

However, the circus continued last weekend when one provincial member, a Ms Banda addressed disgruntled members following confusion over the party’s voters’ roll.

“Our task is to verify our members according to the party voters’ roll. Unfortunately the majority of those present here are not in the voters roll so we are postponing the verification and election of new office bearers till 27 September, Maybe by then things will be in order,” said Banda.

In Hurungwe North, covering Chiefs Chundu and Kazangarare, traditional leaders were reportedly force-marching villagers to attend restructuring meetings.

At Mahwau business centre about 60 kilometres north of Karoi town under Hurungwe rural council ward 8, villagers were allegedly told that they should attend meetings if they wanted free agricultural inputs.

The Mashonaland West restructuring exercise was kicked off by former national political commissar Webster Shamu ahead of the 2013 election. Then, the party’s former provincial chairman and previous Hurungwe West MP, Temba Mliswa’s executive tried to complete the exercise but abandoned it half way. The recently deposed acting chairman, Ziyambi Ziyambi, was booted out before making any meaningful progress.

The acting provincial chairman, Ephraim Chengeta, confirmed that turnout has been a bit disappointing but improving.

“The turn out was not all that good when we kicked off in Kariba rural but it has since improved. We are happy that when we finish the verification exercise of cells and districts, it will be good for the party. Generally I am happy,” he said.

In Masvingo the restructuring stalled at provincial levels where serious jostling has arisen between the so-called young Turks and the old guard. So far only the inter-district restructuring is currently taking place.

Acting chairman, Paradzai Chakona, is facing an acid test from a crop of ambitious young politicians who include provincial treasurer, Killer Zivhu as well as Ezra Chadzamira and Pupurai Togarepi.

“We have held six inter-district restructuring polls which started in Chivi, Mwenezi, Zaka, Chiredzi, Masvingo and Gutu. On Wednesday, we have elections for inter-district executives and we will be starting in Gutu, then proceed to Zaka and then Masvingo.

“We do not have any circular for the elections for the provincial executive. The commissariat gives us a directive if we are to have the elections, but at the moment, we do not have anything to that effect,” said Chakona.

The situation is largely messy in Harare, Bulawayo, Midlands, Manicaland and Matabeleland South. Only Matabeleland North has a semblance of stability.

The situation has now become so confused that even the party’s national political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere, is in sixes and sevens over the issue as colleagues increasingly turn the sword on him, accusing the combative leader of failing to drive a plan that should change the party’s fortunes and place it on a firmer footing.

And uncharacteristically, the firebrand and combative party loyalist, Kasukuwere has not been picking up his phone. Party spokesperson, Simon Khaya-Moyo, refused to indicate progress made so far on the party’s restructuring exercise.

Khaya-Moyo told the Financial Gazette when asked to explain the situation in the party: “That is an issue for the commissariat.”

Observers, however, said ZANU-PF was too embarrassed to admit that the party lost key cadres through the dismissals and suspensions and, as it stands, the party is now leaderless in the provinces.

Most provincial chairpersons, who had been in provincial structures for the past decade or more, were either suspended or thrown out of the party, a situation which left the party’s grassroots virtually with leaders who are neither respected nor influential.

The removal of the key party functionaries has seen those that have been tasked with building confidence among followers having a tough time winning trust from followers, who are now reluctant to attend meetings.

Incidents of staunch party supporters being dressed down in public has left many in fear of suffering similar humiliation, and many of those who took over positions seem clueless on how to mobilise the shaken grassroots.

Also, the party’s renouncement of all membership cards issued by the party’s former political commissar, Shamu’s office inadvertently left the entire party’s membership base confused and uncertain.

Shamu was, in June this year, suspended for three years from the party for his perceived links with former vice president Joice Mujuru, just over a year after introducing a new plastic membership card.

The card was suspended indefinitely in February this year, pending an investigation and audit into its distribution as well as the funds raised. Subscriptions are no longer being collected after the entire process was said to be flawed and no one has so far been interested in getting involved in these and other delicate matters of the party that expose them to scrutiny. Financial Gazette